For those who are wondering why I haven't been blogging very frequently over the past few months. :)
Incisive (adj.) clear, sharp, direct
When Trace lets us into the office, Nestor and I find Snipes sitting on the couch reading Sports Illustrated and smoking a cigar. He takes a swill of copper liquor in a short glass then rests it on the table in front of him. Nestor says, "What's up, Snipes?"
He looks up from his magazine and is obviously surprised to see Nes. Nevertheless, Snipes rises to his feet to shake his hand. "What's up?" Then he extends his palm to me. "How's it going, E?"
I have to smile a bit at that one. As I shake his hand, I say, "I've had better days, sir."
He chuckles as if he appreciates my honesty then motions for us to sit. "Word is one of Hinckley's boys wilded out on you, son," says Snipes. "That hothead Julian."
Nestors yells, "Yo, Snipes, he was trippin' . . ."
"I got this, man," I interrupt him. At first, I wanted Nestor here, but it looks bad for to speak for me all the damned time. "Look, I can't front, Snipes. He did wild out, but that's because I messed up." He says nothing, waiting for me to explain. "I was coming out of Floridita's when someone tried to cop from me. It totally slipped my mind I was off the block, and, you know, I got zealous. Tried to service him. So Hinckley's boy had reason step to me, but he ain't have to OD like he did. Punk crept up then raised up on me." Honestly, if Julian had just called the question, I wouldn't have known how to appease him, but I have to play this off. "Had he just stepped to me like a man, I would've owned up and compensated him, but like Nes said, he made a mountain out of a molehill."
Snipes eyeballs me. Without shifting his gaze from me, he addresses Nestor. "Is that how it went down?"
"And how did y'all leave it."
Nestor waits for my cue, but just because I had to take control of the conversation doesn't mean I have to sell him out. "Nes slipped dude a fifty to let it go."
Snipes nods for a few seconds. He finally says, "Everyone, bounce for a minute while I talk to E." His boys roll out. "You, too, Nes."
Nestor hesitates but eventually gets to his feet. "I'll wait for you outside, a'ight?"
I want him to, for real, but I know that ain't the move. "Nah, kid, it's all good. I'm cool. I'll holla at you later." His face says You sure? I force myself to smile. "Remind me to tell you about that waitress I ran into at the restaurant."
Nestor runs with it. "Ah, the one with the big. . ."
"Yeah, that one."
"Yeah, man, she's fit, yo." He gives me a pound and then offers his hand to Snipes. "One, bro."
"Peace, kid." I don't know where to put my eyes until Nestor and the others leave so I pull lint off the cuff of my sweater. When the door closes, I finally look up at Snipes. He reaches toward the cigar box on the table between us. "Smoke?"
I shake my head. "Nah."
"Want a drink? A shot of rum. Some beer?"
"No, but thanks."
Snipes picks up his glass of rum, walks around the table and takes Nestor's seat beside me. "This isn't you, is it, E?" I have no idea what he means so I just shrug. He leans forward and sets his glass back on the table. "Tell me again what you're doing here."
My heart races. Snipes acts as if I have ulterior motives – like I'm fixing to sabotage him or something – yet I feel cheesy at the mere thought of telling him the truth. "Like I said, I need money."
"Yeah, I remember." I'm fraying his patience. "Nobody ever has enough. But why specifically do you need more?" When I hesitate to respond, Snipes jumps to his feet, reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a wad of bills. "OK, Scout, here you go." He peels off one hundred dollar bill after the other, tossing them into a stack on the table. I count them as they pile up. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. "Is that enough for you?"
I go from embarrassed to offended. Snipes doesn't know me to rate my needs and motives in life so damned cheaply. I glance up at him and say, "Hardly."
He scoffs at me, and I look away. Snipes adds another grand in hundreds to the pile on the table. "How's that?"
"If I'm fired, just say so." My chest is on fire. "You don't have to ride me."
"I'm not riding you, Scout," says Snipes, heaping on the sarcasm. "I'm trying to help you." He whips out hundreds like an ATM until five stacks sit on the table. "You can take that and walk away, no questions asked."
I should take it, say peace out and never show my face around these parts again. But there's more at stake now than money. "I would if it were enough."
Snipes bends down and hollers in my face, "How much is enough then?"
"Thirty!" I yell back.
"College?" He laughs like my name is Ernie, and I want to buy a truckload of rubber ducks. "College?"
"I didn't stutter." I'm not two feet from Cerebus, and I unleash this pent up bravado. Where was it when I was on the block?